AI is Changing the Face of Cyber Security: Here is What You Need to Know

August 11, 2021 Published Article

Cyber security is a challenge because while a cybercriminal needs only succeed once, cyber defense systems must neutralize every threat.  Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is defined as the “theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”  AI is not only resulting in increased employment displacement around the world, but also is increasingly becoming integral to cyber security. 

While AI is nowhere near replacing the value of human intelligence when it comes to cyber security, AI is becoming an increasingly valuable tool to protect against phishing, malware, and other cyber attacks.  Here is what you should know about how it is used as both an offensive weapon and a defensive shield.

AI As A Weapon

AI can be used by cyber criminals to conduct frontal attacks by increasing the efficacy of attacks that rely on social engineering.  For example, AI can monitor and track users’ online behavior, which can be used to increase the likelihood that they are duped into clicking what seems like an innocent link in a phishing e-mail.  AI can also be used to monitor computer systems as they are updated and patched, which might create new vulnerabilities within the system.  

In addition, cyber attackers can also manipulate the victim’s own AI system to assist with attacks.  For example, they can tamper with the data that is used by AI as a resource.  As a result, AI systems can become ineffective.  In addition, cyber criminals can hack into the AI system itself and collect the AI input data, which can be used to formulate future frontal attacks on other systems.

AI As A Defense

AI is also going to become increasingly important to defend against cyber attacks.  Just as it can be used to monitor users’ behavior to assist with attack, it can be used to assist IT Departments with training online users through the use of more effective fake phishing e-mails sent by the IT Department itself.  AI can also be used to monitor the system by identifying suspicious activity relating to access and use.  Detection is the key when combating cyber threats. 

Additionally, AI can assist with probing the system for vulnerabilities or identifying particular codes attempting to attack the system, even stopping them in some instances.  Importantly, AI cannot only assist large companies, but it can greatly enhance the cyber security (and reduce the associated costs) of small businesses who have limited IT Departments or no IT Department at all.

AI And Human Intelligence Collaboration

As mentioned above, AI is nowhere close to replacing IT Departments anytime soon (if ever).  However, the collaboration between AI and human intelligence is integral to the effectiveness of AI.  For example, AI must be supervised, monitored, and updated, including because, as mentioned, cyber criminals can utilize AI itself for an attack. 

Moreover, AI simply is not close to duplicating what the human mind can do.  That is, humans are better at making wisdom based decisions for which they have not received specific training.  As a result, there are many instances when an IT Professional could recognize a threat when AI simply could not.  For example, a phishing e-mail could rely on a fact patterns based on very recent events that the AI system has not been trained for or taught to recognize.  AI simply is not a replacement yet (and my never be) for IT security experts.  As AI develops further, it will becomes an increasingly valuable part of cyber security.  However, it is highly likely for the reasons mentioned that cyber security will always have a human component.

That being said, if you own a business, you should consult with an IT professional to discuss how an AI system can better protect you and reduce your cyber security costs.  The threat of cyber attacks is very real and growing rapidly.  Every resource at your disposal, including AI, should utilized to protect your business.